After clinching their spot in the 2023 Women’s World Cup by winning the CONCACAF W Championship, it's time for the United States Women’s National Team to get ready for the September international window. Nigeria will be their opponent in two friendlies to take place this weekend.
Nigeria is the first opponent for the USWNT as they begin preparations for the Women’s World Cup next summer, where they will vie for an unprecedented third straight World Cup title. The Labor Day weekend series of friendlies begin Saturday in Kansas City, one of the best supporting cities in the United States for women's soccer. Then, both teams will travel to Washington, D.C., for a second friendly on Tuesday.
"Of course, we're looking forward to bringing the team back to one of the best soccer cities and best soccer stadiums in the United States in Kansas City," Vlatko Andonovski said about the upcoming match between Nigeria in Children's Mercy Park Stadium, home of the Kansas City Current and Sporting Kansas City.
The Super Falcons landed in Kansas City on Wednesday. Nigeria remains Africa's most successful women's team, with 11 African Cup of Nations titles, and they are also the only country to advance to the knockout round in the World Cup and Olympics. They suffered a tough loss to Morocco in the 2022 Women's Africa Cup of Nations semifinals in a 5-4 victory on penalties. However, the bleeding didn't end there, as they were defeated in the 3rd place game 1-0 to Zambia. It was only the second time Nigeria didn't leave the WAFCON with a medal.
This is the first friendly for both teams since their confederation tournaments last month. The USWNT have already announced they will head to Wembley Stadium for a heavyweight match against Euro champs England on October 7th. First, they must prepare for Nigeria, who could come into these friendlies with some motivation due to their lackluster performance in the WAFCON.
The USWNT will see some new faces in camp
When the 23-player roster was announced for the window, it included some changes for the World Cup qualifying USWNT. The most notable change is the addition of Crystal Dunn, who is back in camp after returning from maternity leave. Dunn will only be a part of camp to get back into form, but will not be on the roster for the matches.
Savannah DeMelo replaces Trinity Rodman, who left the squad due to a family commitment. DeMelo is looking to earn her first senior team cap after a positive career on both youth squads. Hallie Mace also joined the squad, replacing Kelley O'Hara, who is nursing a hip injury. Mace gets her first call-up since 2018, looking for her 4th international cap in her career.
Randy Waldrum needs a great Nigerian performance
Randy Waldrum is on the hot seat as Nigeria coach after the WAFCON letdown. The Nigerian media and fan base has been critical of Waldrum due to his poor talent management , putting many players in unnatural positions on the field. Nigerian federation president Amaju Pinnick came to Waldrum's defense, saying they have to honor his contract despite the calls for his job. A solid performance from the Super Falcons against one of the best teams in the world could change the trajectory.
Vlatko Andonovski goes for preparation over evaluation
With the USWNT having qualified for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, normally the fall friendlies would focus on evaluating players who could potentially make the final roster next summer. However, for these friendlies, USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski opted to bring in essentially the same roster that he had for the Concacaf W Championship. There are a couple of recent additions due to injuries (and Trinity Rodman’s family commitment), but it’s clear he’s opting to start preparations for the World Cup now with the group he considers his most solid.
There’s still a long time before the World Cup begins, and the coaching staff will have plenty of time to evaluate players. However, Andonovski has decided it’s more important to continue molding this group of players, save for a few, into the world beating machine that will be needed to win a 5th star.
What are you most looking for against Nigeria this weekend from the USWNT? Hit the comments and discuss.